CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- "I want to go to school with kids."These are the words of Thaddaeus Ford, a 5-year-old from Jeffrey in Boone County. Thaddaeus cannot go to school because he has an intolerance against the vaccines that West Virginia state law requires him to have for enrollment."Home school is our only option; there are no private schools close by," said Thaddaeus' mother, Michelle Ford.Thaddaeus said he goes to school with "Mom, Mammaw and the cats."Thaddaeus hasn't had any vaccinations since he was 6 months old. He was born healthy, but that changed after he got his first shots at 2 months old.After getting his shots, he developed severe allergies to food and chemicals, which prevented him from getting further shots. At the age of 4 months, his body was blistered and stayed that way for two years. When he was 6 months old, his body became rigid, and he had to be taken to the doctor. Today he has speech and motor skill delays.The school system did not want Thaddaeus to go to school for fear that he would get other kids sick. His mother said he is considered a "public health threat.""But with further vaccinations to Thaddeaus, where is the health threat and to whom?" she questioned.
Recently Thaddaus' family doctor, Dr. Jennifer Hensley, provided a medical exemption that should allow him to enroll in school without more vaccines. However, even with that, he still cannot go yet. The exemption first has to go through the Board of Education, the county health department and the state health department."The local Boone County Health Department advised that the process would be 'lengthy,'" Michelle said.Companies that make vaccines aren't held liable if a person has a bad reaction or even dies from the shots because of a federal law passed in the 1980s that protects them. Since then, more vaccines have been developed, some without undergoing tests to determine their safety.Because of this, some people are suffering, and some children, like Thaddaeus, have had serious reactions to their two-, four- and six-month shots. Yet, no test has ever been created to see what made them react to the vaccine.There are 48 states in the country that allow parents the choice of giving their children vaccination shots. West Virginia and Mississippi are the two that do not.Michelle Ford and parents like her across the state are involved in a grassroots effort to have the statewide law changed. Changing the law would allow parents here to have the personal, philosophical or religious choice to give or not give vaccines like parents in the 48 other states have.If such a law change ever comes, children like Thaddaeus will not have to fight for the right to attend school. For now, though, he and his mother will have to wait for the different boards to approve his exemption.
"Thaddaeus deserves a free and appropriate public education like all other West Virginia children are entitled," Michelle said.